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GST and personal aquatic survival skills

How GST applies to the provision of personal aquatic survival skills and how this differs from swimming lessons.

Last updated 9 January 2019

When a course is GST-free

The supply of a first aid or lifesaving course is GST-free if:

  • the course mainly involves training people in first aid, resuscitation or other similar lifesaving skills (including 'personal aquatic survival skills' but not 'swimming lessons'), and
  • the course provider is qualified.

The course provider is qualified if:

  • the instructor holds a training qualification for that course issued by      
    • AUSTSWIM Ltd
    • Surf Lifesaving Australia Ltd, or
    • The Royal Lifesaving Society – Australia
  • it is a registered training organisation offering competencies contained in the GST regulations.

Courses that mostly involve training in surf lifesaving or aero-medical rescue are GST-free even if part of the course is swimming lessons.

Personal aquatic survival skills

A personal aquatic survival skill lets a person survive and/or be safe in the water.

Personal aquatic survival skills include:

  • sculling
  • treading water
  • floating
  • safe entry and exit from the water
  • techniques for clothed swimming survival
  • use of devices to assist rescue, and
  • basic swimming skills.

Basic swimming skills prevent people from drowning or enable them to move away from a dangerous situation in the water – for example, to move away from a burning vessel. We consider that people have acquired all necessary basic swimming skills when they have completed a swimming and water safety program that is consistent with the National Swimming and Water Safety Framework.

A course that teaches mainly personal aquatic survival skills:

  • teaches a student how to survive in the water, or
  • improves their ability to survive in the water.

Example: personal aquatic survival skills

The Killeen Leisure Centre gives classes for children aged three and over.

After completing a beginner's level course, a child can:

  • put their face in the water
  • blow bubbles
  • float motionless for 10 seconds
  • kick while holding onto the pool edge, and
  • get in and out of the pool.

Because all of these skills are personal aquatic survival skills, the beginners' level classes satisfy the relevant requirements in the definition of a 'first aid or lifesaving course' in the GST Act.

End of example

Swimming lessons

Swimming lessons are not a 'first aid or lifesaving course' under GST law.

A 'swimming lesson' in this context improves their swimming skills, for example, improving endurance, speed and technique.

Typical characteristics of a swimming lesson include but are not limited to:

  • aerobic endurance training and physical conditioning of one or more of the competitive swimming strokes
  • refining racing turns and race starting
  • interval/cycle training
  • combinations of wet and dry land training, and
  • race strategies and psychological training.

A student taking swimming lessons already has the skills to survive in the water. The main point of the course is to make the student a better swimmer.

Example: swimming lessons

Elite Swimming Academy provides squad training for proficient swimmers. A typical session involves:

  • 15 × 100 metres freestyle at maximum pace
  • 5 × 400 metres backstroke
  • 10 × 50 metres freestyle
  • racing starts, and
  • land work (medicine ball, skipping, and weights).

Because these skills are designed to improve the student's endurance and stroke effectiveness, the course mainly involves swimming lessons. The squad training would not be GST-free.

End of example

Course content and purpose

When deciding whether a course is a first aid or lifesaving course, consider the content and purpose of your course, as opposed to other factors such as the name of the course or the level of student participation.

For example:

  • A course you advertise as a ‘learn-to-swim’ program that is mainly of instruction in personal aquatic survival skills, meets the definition of a 'first aid or lifesaving course' in the GST Act.
  • If the course content is that of a first aid or lifesaving course and meets all of the requirements, the course will be GST-free even if a student does not complete the course or has enrolled in the course for reasons not related to first aid or lifesaving.

Example: course content and purpose

The Killeen Leisure Centre uses qualified instructors in a course that teaches the following skills:

  • efficient stroke techniques where students swim 50 metres of the following strokes     
    • sidestroke
    • freestyle
    • lifesaving backstroke
    • backstroke
  • treading water for five minutes
  • swimming 50 metres in any stroke using a personal flotation device
  • diving and swimming underwater for 10 metres, and
  • tumble/flip turning.

The course mainly consists of the teaching of personal aquatic survival skills. The course is GST-free.

End of example